Day 12 – Ruitelán to Triacastela (30.5 km)
“…..Having reached O Cebreiro I had reason to value my efforts in achieving the ascent. When looking back at the course of my life, the path was more of a roller-coaster, not just achievements. My hope is that I have also contributed in positive ways and will be judged leniently – based on the final outcome of my efforts.
Do I believe in reincarnation? – What do I or we know about any further advances after death? I believe that by assuming the spiritual efforts we make in this life are not in vain, and we are given a few more life-times to further advance our soul, reincarnation is a comforting thought. It provides a purpose, and should reincarnation be a myth, we will have done no harm in attempting our best in the here and now – reaping the benefits in this lifetime.
I am writing these thoughts while sitting in Iglesia de Santa Maria Real in O Cebreiro, its origin dating back to the 9th century. To me this is a beautiful church, although it was re-built in 1971 by Don Elias Valiña Sampedro in the Romanesque style. We owe this pastor of O Cabreiro a mighty thank you, he is recognized as the father of the ‘new’ 20th century Camino Francés and is the initiator of the yellow arrow way marker we eagerly search for and follow these days.
As always when entering a church, I lit a candle for my family. This time it was a large, thick candle which would burn for hours to come, not one of those electrical contraptions which light up as the penny drops. There were no wrought iron stands with rows of cups to hold candles as is commonly the case, so I placed mine in an alcove near the altar and since my arrival many more pilgrims positioned theirs close to mine. When I left a fairly long time and many thoughts later, my candle was still burning brightly
Without noticing I had become very cold in the church and needed a warm drink and something to eat – I was starving. My jacket was still wet with sweat from the steep part of the climb, despite my taking it off before I got too hot. To compensate and protect me from the chilly air, I had swung my sarong from Bali over my shoulder, with the triangular ends covering my arms. A woman I overtook towards the end of the climb tucked the cloth on both sides under my backpack to prevent cold creeping up my back. This was just sufficient to keep the light breeze out. She liked my sarong with its bright orange and somehow blotchy repeat patterns of an Asiatic farmer with a long whip, controlling a pair of oxen pulling a plough.
A while earlier, shortly before O Cebreiro, a young couple took photos of each other in front of the beacon marking the boundary into Galicia. Chiselled into the stone was the inscription that we were only 152.5 km from Santiago. I photographed the couple and we then ceremoniously stepped over the boundary.
In a bar in O Cebreiro I ordered coffee and a tortilla. Inside it was quite warm from all the pilgrims gathered there and from an open fire in one corner. I must have been sitting in the parish church for close to two hours and so most pilgrims had caught up with me.
It was drizzling on arrival, which was fitting for this place in the middle of nowhere and where mysticism from days gone by and the pronounced Celtic feel were still palpable. When I entered the village the church appeared behind a walled yard which must have been part of the monastery that stood here long ago. Around the corner was a palloza, a typical round ‘hut’ of centuries past when similar shelters were the living quarters of the Celts. They consisted almost entirely of a fairly high and roughly thatched conical ‘roof’ sloping down to just above the ground. The structure looks rather like some hairy and bedraggled sheep.
It was well past eleven and I was still in the bar waiting for my tortilla. I had only walked just over nine kilometres out of the valley and still had twenty one kilometres to go before reaching Triacastela, so I had an urgency to leave.
I changed my order of a tortilla to cabbage soup when this was served without delay to another table ‒ the eggs for my tortilla probably had not yet been laid. Another reason for changing the order, over and above being hungry, was that I needed something to warm me – I was still decidedly cold…..”
Day 12 – Ruitelán to Triacastela (30.5 km)